Writing and editing

I often need parenting advice. Thankfully, I go to the studio everyday and there I can ask any number of sweet, sensible moms and dads for their two cents. Because we now live in little isolated family units, and since I can’t just go ask the village elder when I have a problem that I don’t want to email my sister about, I turn to the interweb to guide me. I am happy for the amazing resource that is the world wide web, but it does sort-of concern me for two reasons:

1. If I am raising my child through internet advice, that means other people are certainly doing the same and I’m not sure what that means for our kids because…

2. The interweb is full of crazies.

Recently, I googled “three year old won’t wash hair” because Holden screams and yells and generally freaks out whenever he gets his hair washed. We start out okay, until Holden gets worked up about a drop of water on his forehead. And then, without fail the whole thing ends in a big pile of shampoo, water, and tears. We reached a low point last month, when fed up after several months of the aforementioned screaming, I told him that his hair would have to be cut off if he couldn’t wash it without starting WWIII every week. That was a shitty thing to say, and it made him cry and freak out more. After I put him to bed that night I decided I had officially reached the end of my parenting skills on that particular issue. So I turned to the bastion of good parenting, Google.

There are always three distinct parenting camps on those discussion boards. There are the Yahoo Answers type, that generally favour corporal punishment, the BabyCenter moms that have week-long cutesy project ideas, and then the far-out radical parenting sites.

The three pieces of advice I gleaned from the discussion boards:

1. Smack your child so he knows who is in charge. (Yahoo Answers)

2. Buy foamy stars and beautiful shapes and stick them to the ceiling above your sink. Buy an insert to wash your child’s hair beauty parlour style in the sink. Make up nice songs and a short musical about hair washing. Build the sets and cast your pets in the production. Perform on the street for change and then use that money to take a course on towel making. Make the most beautiful soft towel and present it to your child in a candlelit ceremony at his favourite toy store. (babycenter)

3. My child hasn’t taken a bath in over a year. I forced him to wash once a year ago, and he cried. That night I lay on the kitchen floor and sobbed in the darkness for hours because I knew I had broken his trust forever. I vowed then to never force him to wash his hair. I can see that it is dirty and he has crusty spots on his scalp. Sometimes I gently suggest a bath and he says “NO BATH” I am sure he will take a bath one day. I know yours will too! (radical unschooling site)

Okay, so I exaggerated a little with number 2, but 1 and 3 are almost word for word suggestions by ACTUAL PARENTS who posted their opinions because they think they are doing right by their kids. That night in bed, I told David what I had read. We both lay awake feeling worried for our future.

The next morning, I understood something – something I felt I had known all along but it took some creepy parents to make it clear: Parenting is about being the fucking adult. All the time. Even when you want to cry in the kitchen for hours or hit someone or whatever crazy thing you think might be okay at the time but actually totally isn’t. You have to take a step back and take a breath and say, “Ok, self. I am screwing this up. It is my job to fix it.” And that is a really hard thing to do. At least for me because I like to blame other people for my problems. But this parenting stuff, this is my problem, my joy, my heartache. I alone have to answer for my actions or inaction.

That day, I asked Holden if he didn’t like getting water in his eyes. He said he didn’t. So, David held a towel over his eyes tightly while I washed his hair. Then we chanted his name for five minutes because he didn’t freak out. When he got out of the bath, he said he wanted to cut his hair. Voila! Stanny and David, 1. Google Parenting, 0.

Just so you don’t think I waste all my time googling parenting questions, today I googled historical photos of Bowood and Lawrence, where the studio is located in Toronto. I found this on the Toronto Public Library’s site.

It is St. Leonard’s Anglican church, it was moved further south. But the picture, and the implicit tumbleweeds, it made me think that our funny small location might be a little point of focus. And I was really happy. Amazing, no?

I also recently googled “What Girls Character Are You?” And I completed three different quizes which all came up with the EXACT same answer. Which means it is Poll Time!

category: Uncategorized
tags: , ,

Today I opened up the Globe and there was a big picture of a northern winter in Iqaluit complete with someone dressed up in a bunch of dead animals. That kind of winter is pretty. The crazy bleakness, the blue grey skies, the way the trees hold the snow. Pretty.

In Toronto it is pretty for a few moments. The snow falls and it looks like Gingerbread Land. This year with the ice storm, we had a few beautiful days of these exquisite tree ice sculptures. More exquisite and beautiful if you weren’t looking for a hotel to spend Christmas in, but beautiful nonetheless.

Eventually, winter gets ugly. The cars get to the snow and turn it brown and soggy. The trees shake their snow and just look like brittle arms. The sky turns the same colour as the ground – sort of yellow/white – and you start to get used to not seeing the sun peek out for days and days.

I take the subway into work, and despite the shambles that is public transportation in Toronto – I prefer it to driving in rush hour and parking on a two-storey snow bank. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement so I decided to make a little list of nice suggestions that I think could ameliorate any subway ride.

1. Toothbrushing Stations: I don’t know how this will work, but I think it is a shit hot idea. Most subway riders seem to omit this crucial morning routine. I don’t want to smell what you ate last night for dinner. All that bad breath makes people cranky and uncooperative. I think a cute little booth by the ticket agent would solve a lot of problems.

2. Listening to Someone Else’s Music: It is like a rule, unless a person is in your home (and even then), she doesn’t want to listen to your music. Even if you listen to the same music that I do, I don’t want to hear it on the subway. Maybe you need better earphones or to have your hearing checked – I’m not sure – but that could be another little service public transportation provides. The people who come on the subway without headphones and the volume turned up on their iPhones – need to return to nursery school before they can make decisions for themselves again. Even my three-year old knows I don’t want to listen to the Octonauts.

3. Stand Up! Once when I was a teenager, I was riding the subway with friends in Rome. The train was packed and we were sitting down. My friend told me not to look up because then you would have to give up your seat. Even at that point, I knew that was kind-of wrong. Later, again as a teenager, I rode a bus in New York City. When we walked in an 80-year old woman shot up and offered us her seat. The rest of the ride was like musical chairs. Every time someone would walk on the bus, the passengers would all stand up and offer their seats, my friend and I included. I always thought that New Yorkers were supposed to be pushy, driven assholes – but I learned I was wrong about New Yorkers, and the real truth is  teenagers should never be allowed to sit down because they are lazy and selfish unless a bunch of seniors teach them otherwise. So, here is my suggestion: One 80 year-old per car. Job: Offering her seat to anyone over 15 and under 30. Three weeks and the whole rude not-giving-the-seat-up thing will be a distant memory.

4. Slippers: I think the subway experience could be so much better in the winter if you weren’t schlepping through slush on the cars. I love the idea of wearing cozy slippers on the subway instead of my boots. Bonus: I wouldn’t have to bug my son not to stand on the seats. Also, less clean up! I suppose while we are making a no outdoor shoe policy on the subway, we should say no MacDonald’s either.

5. Good Subway Newspaper: Would it be so hard? I feel my IQ lowering when I read them. And I say this as someone who has been published in one. There are a million great writers out there who would work for mere ducats, the advertising dollars are clearly there with a captive audience. Those newspapers make me feel bad for the trees, and that shouldn’t be your first thought when you see a newspaper. Maybe they need more Haley-O.

6. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: For the record I think that was a sad and disappointing policy in the US military, but I think in terms of subway delays – it works. In Toronto, we have to hear about every screw that needed to be tightened therefore causing a five second delay. Learning about a delay makes everyone antsy. If I am stuck in a subway tunnel, I’m stuck in a subway tunnel. But if I hear that we are delayed until further notice because some teenager didn’t give up his seat and someone freaked out and pressed the passenger assistance alarm (true story) it is just going to panic me. Don’t tell me about it, just fix it.

Okay, your turn. Subway suggestions?

category: baby
tags: ,

“We may fairly and in all friendliness, describe the Three-and-a-half year old boy or girl as being characteristically inwardized, insecure, anxious, and above all, determined and self-willed. One might assume that his strong-willed self-assertiveness..might be rooted in personal security. Not so! In fact, the very opposite seems to be the case.”  – Louise Bates Ames.

People told me about three in the way that people have also told me about 14.  Thing is, I remember being a total ungrateful asshole to my parents for several years when I was a teenager. But I can’t remember what kind of asshole I was at three.  I felt worried, because I thought two was not Holden’s best age for joyful compliance, but most folks explained that three was actually so much worse. To be honest, three was fine. But three-and-a-half? Bananas.

We knew it was bad when we went to Florida, and on a special boat ride we saw a dolphin that swam right up to the boat and played in the waves beside it, looking at us as it swam underneath. Holden, the boy who has taught me about snapping shrimp and gulper eels and colossal squid, turned disdainfully away from the dolphin and lay face down on the bench for the duration of the trip. That started months of crazy tantrums, weird mood swings, and the strange ability to not be able to take “yes” for an answer and tantrum anyway.

Holden used to be great at going to sleep with the light off, but since 3.5 he has been terrified of his room, the dark , the ghosts and monsters he is convinced reside there. David pointed out that if a ghost spent just five minutes in that room alone with Holden – it would be out of there so fast.  Not even the creepiest ghost could stand a chance against the relentless screams of “THERE IS POO EVERYWHERE!!!!!!” or “ONE MORE STORY!! WAAHHHHHHH!!!! ONE MORE STORY!!!”

The book I am reading, actually suggested to avoid going out at all with your three-and-a-half-year old. I don’t really care when children have melt-downs around me in the store. But for sure, there are some people who do really care. I can tell because they post it on Facebook. And I know I should just get over it, but sometimes you just want to go to the grocery store and pay for your stuff quietly and not have 30% of the store thinking that either a) you are an asshole b) your kid is an asshole c) all of the above.

Good thing he is so damn cute and sweet and charming and gorgeous when he wants to be.

I was at a parenting book store last week, and the woman at the cash told me that I should prepare for age four, because that is the worst age. I felt like reaching out and shoving my wet glove into her mouth. Don’t even tell me. I can’t possibly prepare for worse. But in the most terrifying moments, I can imagine worse.

And it is bad.

Speaking of bad. This weather. I thought warming up would be a good thing. Not so. Do you know the part in Gone with the Wind where Rhett looks at Scarlett’s hands and he is like, “You can’t front on being fancy anymore because your hands are all fucked up from working in the fields or whatever. Plus you are wearing the drapes.” ? Well that is what David is going to say to me when he gets home from Regina and he sees my soft, useless yoga teacher hands that have blistered from the ice picking I am doing on the sidewalk. Minus the drapes part. I won’t wear the drapes.